Archive for October, 2013

“Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection”

October 8th, 2013

The Washington Post recently published a Q&A with Barnard College President Debora L. Spar, whose new book adds another voice to the recently reinvigorated conversation about the current state of feminist struggles. In the book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, Spar suggests that the hard-fought feminist battles from the 1960s and 1970s, which yielded significant freedoms, have also transformed into impossible expectations for women today. “For the first time,” Spar argues, “[women] could go out and be journalists, astrophysicists, anything they wanted. But while we were adding these new expectations, we never got rid of the old ones.” Spar proposes that this new mythology of what a woman should be (that is, “beautiful, smart, economically independent, loving mothers, sexy wives and PTA presidents, all while keeping gracious homes and making nutritious, organic meals every night”) is unrealistic, and attempts to conquer this unattainable goal have left women overwhelmed, feeling inadequate, and with a deep sense of guilt. Spar attempts to counteract such unreasonable expectations by sharing her own messy life stories and urging her readers to learn to “satisfice”—or, realize that you may not always be able to get exactly what you want in every part of your life.

“de Pizan” Memory Lane: 2011 & 2012

October 8th, 2013

The 2013 de Pizan Honors is just one day away! As we continue to countdown to the event, we thought it would be fun to take a stroll down memory lane with a look at past de Pizan Honors.

Do you remember Dr. Maya Angelou’s poignant acceptance speech last year? She won the Gwendolyn Brooks Living Legacy Award:

Watch 2012 Dorothea Lange Living Legacy Award Winner, Annie Leibovitz, reflect on the importance of women’s history:

Check out these photos of 2012 Honorees,Richard Rhodes(Henry Blackwell Award), Elizabeth Dole (Clara Barton Living Legacy Award),

Annie Leibovitz and NWHM President & CEO, Joan Wages

2011 & 2012 de Pizan Honors Emcees: Frangela

2011 Ida B. Wells Living Legacy Award Winner Cathy Hughes

2011 Admiral Grace Hopper Living Legacy Award Winner Helen Griener

2011 Hedy Lamarr Living Legacy Award Winner Marissa Mayer

Don’t forget to purchase your tickets for the 2013 de Pizan Honors if you haven’t yet!

Countdown to the 2013 “de Pizan” Honors: Who was Chistine de Pizan?

October 7th, 2013

NWHM’s 3rd annual de Pizan Honors is just two days away! On Wednesday, Oct. 9th we will be honoring Dr. Etta Pisano, Phylicia Rashad, The Honorable Sally Jewell and Denyce Graves for their remarkable contributions to the world. We’ll also be posthumously honoring Dr. Helen Taussig, Lena Horne, Rachel Carson and Marian Anderson. While many people have heard of some or all of these honorees, many people have never heard of Christine de Pizan, the brilliant woman for which the de Pizan Honors is named after.

So, just who was Christine de Pizan and why did we feel she was so important that we named an award after her?

Christine de Pizan had a very unusual upbringing for a girl living in 14th century Italy. She was born to a prominent family in Italy circa 1364 and moved to Paris as a child where she received a good education thanks to her father. She married at the age of fifteen but was a widow at twenty-five. Christine wrote poetry after the death of her husband in 1389 as a way to support her three children.

Her transition from courtly poetry to more serious subjects was evident in The Letter of Othea the Goddess that highlights the legacies of wise women from history and myth and begins to develop the theme of the intrinsic worth of women. She devoted most of her life to rigorous study, and is considered the first professional woman writer in Europe, as well as the first woman publisher and the first woman of letters in France.

Her most famous work was also her most eloquent defense of women, A Book of the City of Ladies, in 1405. Christine challenged the prevailing misogynist arguments of the day among men that women were inferior. She also argued for equal education of women and that they are capable of learning law and science and should become warriors, artists, inventors and teachers.

The date and place of Christine’s death is not known but it is believed to be in 1430 or 1431. She is included in two important books about French women authors published in 1786 and 1838, and she continues to fascinate readers and scholars in the twenty-first century.

Christine is revered as the first woman to write about Western women’s history. The National Women’s History Museum is dedicated to continuing Christine de Pizan’s work of documenting women’s history and we are proud to present the Honors in her name.

If you haven’t purchased your tickets for the 2013 de Pizan Honors yet, there’s still time!

Click here to purchase your tickets.

NWHM Featured in The Washington Post

October 7th, 2013

Check out this Washington Post article about NWHM published on October 4th.

The first official act in what became the National Women’s History Museum was to help get the statue of suffragettes Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony moved from the Capitol crypt to the Capitol Rotunda in 1997.

Some of those involved in that effort decided to try to secure a permanent place for women’s history on the Mall. The National Women’s History Museum was incorporated in 1997 “with the mission to bring women’s history back to our mainstream,” says Joan Wages, a founding board member and president of the National Women’s History Museum since 2007. That effort is nearly 20 years old. Legislation to study the museum’s feasibility has never passed both houses of Congress. Wages says supporters are still advocating, raising money and spreading the word.


In the past decade, bills to study the feasibility of the National Women’s History Museum have passed the House and the Senate, but never in the same session. Measures to establish a privately funded congressional commission to explore possible museum sites were introduced to the House and the Senate in February. Seventeen of the 20 women in the Senate co-sponsored the bill.


Wages won’t give exact figures on how much has been raised. The commission to study the museum’s feasibility is expected to cost $1 million. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is set to open on the Mall in 2015, is costing an estimated $500 million, but “they are a bigger museum than what we’ve anticipated. We’re hoping we could do it for $400 million,” Wages says. They won’t have a good estimate until they identify the possible land, or an existing building. There are more than 50,000 museum members across the country, but “the really big gifts will not come until we have the site. Until there’s bricks and mortar, or solid ground that we can point to,” Wages says.


Upcoming lectures in partnership with George Washington University include women in the military Nov. 12 and women in sports in February. An Oct. 9 fundraising gala will honor opera singer Denyce Graves, actress Phylicia Rashad, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and Etta Pisano, a pioneer in radiology and breast imaging.

Click here for the original Washington Post article.

#FoodieFriday: Cooking with Alice Waters

October 4th, 2013

This week’s #FoodieFriday gives us a front row seat for a cooking lesson with famed chef and owner of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters. Bon Apetite!

NWHM & GWU Launch first Lecture in New Series

October 3rd, 2013

NWHM & GWU held its first forum in the Initiating Change/Adapting to Change lecture series on October 2, 2013. Dr. Leisa Meyer (College of William & Mary) and General Wilma Vaught (President of the Board of Directors of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.) spoke about A New Order: Change for Women in the U.S. Military to a crowd of approximately 72 people. The discussion, moderated by journalist Eleanor Clift, examined women’s historical presence in the military during the 20th century and the tremendous career opportunities  that have opened up for military women in 21st century. The event was held at the Arts Club of Washington. Check out photos of the event below.

Dr. Leisa Meyer, Eleanor Clift, General Vaught, Joan Wages

#ThrowbackThursday: Mary McLeod Bethune and the Education of Young Black Girls

October 3rd, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was an educator, civil rights activist, and political advisor to multiple US presidents. She became president of the National Association of Colored Women in 1924 and founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. Her most notable political appointment was as part of President Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.” She served as Roosevelt’s Director of the National Youth Administration’s Division of Negro Affairs from 1935-43. During her time with the National Youth Administration, she helped to create programs “which prepared [black youth] for skilled, high salaried positions in the labor market, and total equality for Negroes in every facet of the American society,” (Ross, 1975: 6). Bethune worked tirelessly for equal treatment of blacks and their full integration into American life. In particular, she believed economic equality, and the ability to vote and have access to the political process would provide racial uplift for black Americans (McCluskey, 1997; Linsin, 1997). Her efforts “[placed] her within the broad spectrum of the racial uplift ideology that so engaged educated African Americans during the early 1900s,” (McCluskey, 1997: 201).

As an educator, Bethune sought to produce a young generation of New Negro Women. With $1.50, she opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida on October 3, 1904. The school would later merge with the all-male Cookman Institute to form what is now known as Bethune-Cookman University. When Bethune’s school first opened, Daytona was a segregated city, where its black citizens had unequal opportunities, especially when it came to education. Black schools had inadequate facilities and resources, black children, if they enrolled in school at all, were in classrooms for less hours of the day than white students, white teachers earned higher salaries than black teachers, and the state spent a fraction of the money they spent on white schools on black schools – all in all, “by 1904 the town of Daytona had no viable school system for blacks,” (1997: 203).
Despite the difficult surrounding environment, Bethune’s school for young girls would soon flourish, promoting the “dual purpose that Bethune envisioned: to teach both academic and practical skills to black girls,” (1997: 206). The school provided girls with domestic science courses, as well as business and liberal arts courses, which would enable students “to support themselves while they simultaneously strove toward better opportunities,” (1997: 209) before and after graduation. As a postsuffrage woman, Bethune encouraged her students and blacks in the Daytona community to “exercise their voting power,” (Linsin, 1997: 26) and “to get involved” with elections and campaigns (McCluskey, 1994: 214). She believed racial uplift started with the education of black girls and the instruction she provided her students with became “a prerequisite for the full participation of black women in public life and for their recognition as worthy women,” (1994: 211).


Join in on the conversation!  Post comments below, on Facebook, or Tweet us @womenshistory using the hashtags #ThrowbackThursday and #TBT.


Minnesota Public Radio

Linsin, Christopher E. “Something More than a Creed: Mary McLeod Bethune’s Aim of Integrated Autonomy as Director of Negro Affairs.” The Florida Historical Quarterly. Vol. 76, No. 1. Florida Historical Society, 1997. 20-41.

McCluskey, Audrey. T. “Multiple consciousness in the leadership of Mary McLeod Bethune.” NWSA Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. 69-81.
Ross, Joyce. “Mary McLeod Bethune and the National Youth Administration: A Case Study of Power Relationships in the Black Cabinet of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” The Journal of Negro History. Vol. 60, No. 1. Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc., 1975. 1-28.